What You Should Do Before You Begin An Excavation Project?

The employer or supervisor is responsible for the work, and must take the necessary steps to identify all the hazards and risks before beginning any work. These steps include to:

  • Identify the soil type(s) related to the excavation or trench you are going to dig. Soil properties often vary widely within a single trench (e.g., the soil type changes from top to bottom and along the length of a trench).
  • Look for the legislative requirements that apply in your jurisdiction and the type of protective measures to be taken.
  • Locate all buried services. Contact the owners of any underground utilities/services that may be in that location and ask them to identify and mark the location.
  • Identify and locate overhead power lines.
  • Make sure these services are de-energized as necessary.
  • Know all of the contact numbers of these services if there is an emergency.
  • Check areas adjacent to the site for potential hazards and sources that can impact the stability of soil. Be aware that nearby vehicles and equipment can cause the soil to vibrate and then collapse.
  • Determine if nearby buildings or structures and their foundations may put pressure on the soil and affect the walls of the trench.
  • Test for hazardous gas, vapours, and dust before entering.
  • Test for oxygen levels in the space before entering, and during the work as required.
  • Plan appropriate organization of the work site, and good housekeeping practices including moving debris and excavated soil far enough away from the excavation site.
  • Remove water from the excavation.
  • Protect workers from falling into the excavation.
  • Identify appropriate personal protective equipment including high visibility apparel for vehicular traffic and make sure every worker wears them as required.
  • Have a worker above ground when a worker is working in the trench to warn those in the trench of danger and to provide emergency help.
  • Prepare work permits for work in confined spaces, as appropriate.
  • Have a means of exit provided from the inside of the trench, usually no more than 8m (25 ft) away than any worker in the trench.
  • Plan for adverse weather conditions (e.g. hot or cold environments, storms, etc.).
  • Prepare an emergency plan and rescue procedures.
  • Keep first aid boxes at the site.
  • Educate and train workers about all existing and potential hazards and risks and appropriate safety measures.

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